Rask 'only bright light' in Bruins loss

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Rask 'only bright light' in Bruins loss

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON --Tuukka Rask finished last season three games under .500. Buthis 11-14 record didnt necessarily tell the whole story.

For those who watched, Rasks record didnt justify hisperformance. What justified his performance was his 2.67 goals-against averagein 29 regular-season appearances.

It was the rest of the Bruins that hardly ever seemed toshow up on nights in which Rask was between the pipes.

Monday afternoon told a similar story, as Rask made hisfirst start of the season, and his first appearance since April 10. And just as he left off, Rask made 35 saves and allowed only one goal.

But still, Rask picked up the loss.

Hes probably the only bright light on this game today,said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the Colorado Avalanche defeated theBruins 1-0 on Monday at the TD Garden. Had it not been for him, this gamecould have probably been over much sooner than it was. He kept us in there andgave us a chance. And we just didnt respond.

The lone goal of the game came eight minutes into the thirdperiod, when a low Milan Hejduk wrister from the right circle deflected offZdeno Charas shin pad and snuck through Rasks five-hole.

We lost the draw, and then they got the puck there and kindof just dangled over to the middle a little bit, said Rask. Hejduk shot it,and it hit a shin pad and bounced in.

I was screened, but I saw the show going and where Ithought it was going. Then it just deflected off something and went in.

Rask should probably be frustrated with the way his teamplayed in front of him and on the other end of the ice. Not just because ithappened on Monday his first start of the season. But also because its anissue thats carried over from last season, when hes between the pipes.

His teammates realize theyre the ones to blame for Mondaysloss, not Rask.

When Tuukka plays a game like he did tonight, we have tocome through for him, said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. Thats something wedidnt do. We left him stranded a bit. He gave us every opportunity to win. Wejust didnt capitalize when we needed to.

He played great, said forward Milan Lucic. You cant ask for much morethan how he played today. He kept us in it the whole night and gave us a chanceto win it. And it sucks on the other end. As one of our players we werent ableto do anything for him on the other end.

If theres anything good to come out of Mondays game, itwas Rask. Not just because he made 35 saves and allowed only one goal. Butbecause he did it while not feeling his best.

I was telling Timmy Thomas before the game, you get thatlittle nervousness in you because its the first game, said Rask. I haventplayed in a long time in a real situation, so I felt kind of weird before thegame. But once the puck dropped and I got into that groove, I felt pretty good.

Its not the greatest Ive ever felt, but still for thefirst game in a long time, I felt pretty good.

Rask gained his in-game confidence by helping kill off a5-on-3 Avalanche power play in the opening minutes.

As the season progresses, Rask expects his confidence togrow even more. He just hopes the wins will follow.

It dont matter if you lose 10-0 or 1-0, its still aloss, said Rask. But we definitely didnt play our full 60-minute effort,thats for sure.

What can you do, right? Whatever, added Rask when askedabout similarities to last season. I mean, my first game of the year. If ithappens 30 times a year, obviously it gets kind of frustrating. But Im not tooworried about it yet, no.

As well he shouldnt be.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while ready for the Chris Sale era to begin with the Red Sox in a 1975 throwback uniform at Fenway’s opening day.

*Larry Brooks says that the New York Rangers are in “deep trouble” despite all of the goals that they’re scoring, and here’s why.

*The New York Islanders are playing with fire when it comes to John Tavares potentially leaving if they can’t find a running mate for him.

*Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector about Kris Russell defying the analytical critics with his work for the Edmonton Oilers.

*Scary scene with the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks where Taylor Hall knocked out Philip Larsen with a hit, and then touched a brawl where the unconscious Larsen was kicked in the head a couple of times.

*Here’s some very good news about former B’s forward Craig Cunningham, who has begun communicating with his AHL teammates through Facetime calls and is alert, joking and sounding like somebody that’s starting to make a slow recovery from whatever mysterious thing caused him to collapse prior to a Roadrunners game.

*Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere has made such a splash with the Broad Street Bullies that he’s got a “Ghost Bear” beer named after him.

*For something completely different: The first trailer for "Spider Man: Homecoming" is going to be shown during Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s looking pretty cool in this snippet.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.